Thursday, February 5, 2009
Is Cruising Only for the Wealthy?
Before I took my first cruise, I had the notion in my head that cruising was a real luxury vacation (AKA something only wealthy and/or retired folks can afford). I'd heard of months-long around-the-world cruises and didn't know about all the very affordable week-long (and sometimes even shorter) cruise options there are.
There are even two-week and longer cruises that aren't out of the realm of affordability for many of us (of course, it can be harder to get away for more than a week when you're a regular, working stiff).
What I've since learned is that cruising can be a very affordable vacation, and it can actually cost a lot less than many other excursions. Certainly there are luxury cruise lines that cater to higher paying clientele (these ships are less crowded and less commercialized and mainstream), and if that's what you can afford and what you want, enjoy it!
But if you're just looking for a low-stress way to get a vacation, a cruise on one of the mainstream ships can be just the ticket. We had a bowling team cruising together on my last trip. It doesn't get any more "Middle America" than that. Maybe I should say "Middle Globe" because, depending on where you're traveling, you'll often be hanging out with guests from numerous countries.
Because meals, room and board, and transportation are all included, cruises make quite affordable vacations. In fact, the cruise lines are banking on you spending extra money on things that aren't included (alcohol, gambling in the casino, art auctions, exotic shore excursions, etc.), but if you don't go crazy on the extras, your trip can stay affordable.
Getting the best deals on cruises
While there are still travel agents who can help you book cruises, you can get great deals just by browsing about online. I booked my first cruise with a travel agent, but have since just used Travelocity. The last time I booked with them (late 2008), their rates ran about $30 cheaper per person than the rates posted on the cruise line's site (you can book online with your specific cruise line too).
The downside is that they didn't offer to create a package linking my flight, cruise, and transportation to and from the airport (something an agent will do for you). It's more of a barebones situation where you get to piece things together yourself. Still, it's possible to get exactly what you want this way (my parents did a package deal cruise to Hawaii and ended up with a layover halfway the opposite direction across the U.S., so it was a really long flight).
You can browse Travelocity for cruises more than a year out (though if you can get away "last minute," that can be a great way to get deals):
Visit Travelocity for Cruise Deals